Online Bible Commentary
A Church, or a Social Club?
1Timothy1:1 Paul, an apostle of Jesus Christ, by the commandment of God our Savior and the Lord Jesus Christ, our hope, 2 To Timothy, a true son in the faith: Grace, mercy, and peace from God our Father and Jesus Christ our Lord. 3 As I urged you when I went into Macedonia--remain in Ephesus that you may charge some that they teach no other doctrine, 4 nor give heed to fables and endless genealogies, which cause disputes rather than godly edification which is in faith. 5 Now the purpose of the commandment is love from a pure heart, from a good conscience, and from sincere faith, 6 from which some, having strayed, have turned aside to idle talk, 7 desiring to be teachers of the law, understanding neither what they say nor the things which they affirm. 8 But we know that the law is good if one uses it lawfully, 9 knowing this: that the law is not made for a righteous person, but for the lawless and insubordinate, for the ungodly and for sinners, for the unholy and profane, for murderers of fathers and murderers of mothers, for manslayers, 10 for fornicators, for sodomites, for kidnappers, for liars, for perjurers, and if there is any other thing that is contrary to sound doctrine, 11 according to the glorious gospel of the blessed God which was committed to my trust. (NKJV)
The Apostle Paul wrote this letter to Timothy shortly before his martyrdom, which occurred about 67-68 A.D. The People’s Chronology dates Paul’s death as, possibly, June 29, 67.
Paul was beheaded by Nero, who died of suicide on June 9, 68 at age 30. We believe Paul’s death was sometime between these two dates.
The place of writing is also unclear. We know that Paul was released from house arrest in Rome about mid 62.
Rome burned on July 18, 64 and Nero cracked down on Christians shortly thereafter. So, Paul was likely imprisoned the second half of 64. This letter was likely written between his release from house arrest in mid 62 and his imprisonment the second half of 64. During this period , we are unsure of Paul’s whereabouts.
Clement contends that Paul traveled to “the west”, meaning Spain (1 Clement 5). Some other early church fathers agree with Clement, while some do not.
It was certainly Paul’s intention to take the Gospel to Spain after first stopping in Rome. However, several Biblical references indicate that Paul travelled east from Rome after his house arrest.
It is possible that he did both during those two years, but we will never know for sure. We do believe that he wrote this letter to Timothy during that time.
Paul begins this letter by writing “Paul, an apostle of Jesus Christ, by the commandment of God our Savior and the Lord Jesus Christ, our hope (v.1). He identifies himself as the writer and introduces himself as an apostle appointed directly by Jesus.
Next, he writes “To Timothy, a true son in the faith: Grace, mercy, and peace from God our Father and Jesus Christ our Lord” (v. 2). Timothy was a young man from Lystra, in present day Turkey, who had been instructed in the Scriptures by his mother and his grandmother. His mother was Jewish and his father Greek. Paul had discipled Timothy.
Paul writes “As I urged you when I went into Macedonia--remain in Ephesus that you may charge some that they teach no other doctrine” (v. 3). At the time of this writing, Timothy was helping the church in Ephesus, also in present day Turkey, to deal with false teachers in the church.
Paul writes “nor give heed to fables and endless genealogies, which cause disputes rather than godly edification which is in faith” (v. 4). Paul instructed Timothy to “command certain men” in the church not to resort to “fables and endless genealogies” which detract from the real work of the church – to produce faith.
Paul continues “Now the purpose of the commandment is love from a pure heart, from a good conscience, and from sincere faith” (v. 5). Paul’s ultimate goal in his instruction is to produce love from a pure heart, a good conscience, and a sincere faith.
He writes “from which some, having strayed, have turned aside to idle talk” (v. 6). Some, those false teachers, Paul says have “strayed” from this goal and turned to “idle talk” (v.6). One of my seminary professors would always say if we were not teaching from the Bible, we were just giving a “good talk”. That is what these false teachers were doing.
Paul continues “desiring to be teachers of the law, understanding neither what they say nor the things which they affirm” (v. 7). Paul says they don’t know what they are talking about, although they may sound very confident in their presentation.
The same thing happens today when Bible teachers get away from the truth of the Bible and start trying to prove their own agendas. This brings to mind a certain son of a prominent pastor who confidently asserts his own convictions, while tearing down Christians, the church, and God’s word. He falsely teaches that we can ignore portions of God’s word if it does not fit the “intent” of Jesus.
Of course, he confidently claims to know Jesus’ intent himself, apart from Scripture. He ignores the fact that Jesus made His will, His intent, known through His word.
Do not be swayed by false teachers because they sound confident in their presentation. Always test what any teacher is teaching, including myself, by the word of God, the entire word of God.
Next, Paul writes “But we know that the law is good if one uses it lawfully” (v. 8). He says the “law is good”, if used properly. Here he seems to be referring, not to Moses’ law, the Pentateuch, the first five books of the Old Testament, but the Ten Commandments specifically.
Paul writes “knowing this: that the law is not made for a righteous person” (v. 9a).The law is not for “the righteous”, Christians.
We do not become Christians by good works, obeying laws, a set of beliefs. Every other religion is based on that.
We become Christians by faith, and then God works through us to produce good works, obedience. Trying to become a Christian by doing good works is called legalism. This was some of the false teaching in the church at Ephesus
Next, Paul states for whom the law, the Ten Commandments, exists. It exists to convict non-Christians of their sin, so that they might come to Christ.
Paul identifies those non-Christians by their sin, according to the Ten Commandments. The first four Commandments refer to man’s duty toward God (Godliness): “the lawless and insubordinate” (first) (v. 9b); “the ungodly and for sinners” (second) (v. 9c); and “the unholy (fourth) and profane” (third) (v. 9d).
The final six of the ten Commandments refer to man’s duty towards his fellow man (righteousness). Paul cites "murderers of fathers and murderers of mothers" (fifth) (v. 9e); “for manslayers”, murderers, (sixth) (v.9f); “fornicators” (immoral heterosexuals) and “sodomites” (homosexuals) (Romans 1:28) (seventh) (v.10a); “kidnappers” (eighth and tenth) (v. 10b); “and liars and perjurers” (ninth) (v. 10c).
Paul then completes his list of sins with a sweeping statement of “if there is any other thing that is contrary to sound doctrine, 11 according to the glorious gospel of the blessed God which was committed to my trust” (v. 10d-11).
This would include the false teaching prevalent in the church at the time, and prevalent in some churches today.
Paul is commanding Timothy to challenge the teachings of some in the church. In the same spirit, I would encourage everyone to examine the teachings of their church or their Bible teacher, and to challenge them if it seems “contrary” to the teachings of the Bible.
You may be able to correct a brother, or he may correct you. That is Biblical: “As iron sharpens iron, so one man sharpens another” (Proverbs 27:17).
None of us want to be guilty of teaching false doctrine. None of us should belong to a church that teaches false doctrine.
If a church is not teaching the truth of the Bible, the whole truth, they are teaching “idle talk”. They are not a church. They are a social club.